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Ars Technica's OneWeb joins the satellite Internet gold rush this week says:

The company chose to partner with Arianespace and its modified Soyuz launch vehicle for the 2020 launches because, Steckel said, OneWeb needed a provider that could guarantee a high cadence of launches with good success.

Question: Does Arianespace have a modified Soyuz launch vehicle? If so, what's it called? If not, what does this mean?

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Soyuz launch vehicles have been launched from Arianespace's launch facility in French Guiana since 2011.

OneWeb has already used the French Guiana Soyuz in 2019 (Flight VS21)

"ownership" is a bit fuzzy when it comes to international colaboration, but as put in this spaceflightnow article:

"The price will not be very different from the previous order," [Stephane] Israel said in March. "We have been able to go for the price each partner wanted."

Arianespace did not disclose the financial terms of its agreement with Roscosmos, the Russian federal space agency.

From this, it seems like Arianespace is indeed buying launchers from Roscosmos.


As for "modified", wikipedia has a list of modifications of the Soyuz-2.1a/1b vehicles launched from the cosmodrom in French Guiana.

The main takeaways are adaptions of telemetry, and new pyrotechnic-activated rocket engines.

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"Союз-2.1б" "На этапе 1б блок III ступени (ракета-носитель «Союз 2.1б») был оснащен современным двигателем 14Д23 (РД-0124), что позволило дополнительно повысить энергетические возможности носителя."

Soyuz-2 series launch vehicles were developed on the basis of the Soyuz-U launch vehicle. At the development stage “1b”, the third-stage unit (Soyuz 2.1b launch vehicle) was equipped with a modern 14D23 engine (RD-0124), which allowed to further increase the carrier’s energy capabilities. "

https://www.roscosmos.ru/468/

Tonight, February 7, 2020 at 00:42 Moscow time, Baikonur consisted of a successful Soyuz-2.1b rocket carrier with a Fregat booster block and 34 spacecraft of the OneWeb satellite communications system

Сегодня ночью, 7 февраля 2020 года в 00:42 мск, с космодрома Байконур состоялся успешный пуск ракеты-носителя «Союз-2.1б» с разгонным блоком «Фрегат» и 34 космическими аппаратами спутниковой системы связи OneWeb.

The first six OneWeb satellites were launched from the Guiana Space Center using the Soyuz-ST-B launch vehicle and the Frigate-M booster on February 28, 2019.

Первые шесть спутников OneWeb были запущены из Гвианского космического центра с помощью ракеты-носителя «Союз-СТ-Б» и разгонного блока «Фрегат-М» 28 февраля 2019 года

https://www.roscosmos.ru/28005/

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  • $\begingroup$ But can we say that it belongs to Arianespace? I'm wondering why the quote says "Arianespace and its modified Soyuz launch vehicle" which suggests to me that the modified launch vehicle belongs to Arianespace. What's the connection? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 8 at 11:09
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    $\begingroup$ This seems an incomplete answer. Please spell things out and don't just quote another source. $\endgroup$ – user2705196 Feb 8 at 14:03
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh the rocket is built in Russia and launched by Russian engineers in kourou. $\endgroup$ – Antzi Feb 8 at 17:37
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh Soyuz-2.1b" launched at Baikonur(2020). Soyuz-ST - in French Guiana (2019). $\endgroup$ – A. Rumlin Feb 9 at 8:39

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